How to Use Self-Compassion to Transform Your Life

In a recent podcast, I talked to University of Texas professor, author and researcher Dr. Kristin Neff about the power of self-compassion and how it can transform our lives. We discussed her fascinating (and groundbreaking) research into the psychological benefits of self-compassion. We discussed how to use self-compassion to overcome perfectionism, how it counteracts shame, and how it can help in avoiding burnout. Having self-compassion can be incredibly beneficial for our overall mental health by helping us overcome self-criticism and overcome life’s challenges. So, here are the key elements of self-compassion and how it can be used to transform your life.

Mindfulness is the foundation for having self-compassion. Being aware of our feelings helps us have perspective so we can have a more compassionate response when we’re going through something difficult. Having self-compassion is the ability to respond to our feelings and emotions with kindness. With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness we’d give to a friend or loved one, as opposed to shame, blame or self-criticism.

Having an unconditional sense of self-worth is a key result of practicing self-compassion. The more compassion you turn inward, the smaller your sense of self becomes. People who are more self-compassionate are able to see others’ perspective, and are better able to forgive others and themselves. So, here are some ways to practice self-compassion:

-Treat yourself how you’d treat a close friend. Ask yourself how you’d respond to a friend the next time you’re criticizing yourself.

-Change your critical self-talk. Speak to yourself as you’d speak to someone you love.

-Think of a kinder, more caring way to motivate yourself. Love is more powerful than fear.

-When you notice you’re under stress, take 2-3 deep breaths and put your hand over your heart. Dr. Neff’s research indicates that physical touch releases oxytocin, provides a sense of security, soothes distressing emotions, and calms cardiovascular stress. 

-Try journaling as a way to express your emotions.

Our state of mind impacts the state of mind of other people – what we cultivate internally affects others because there are so many ways we are interconnected, even at the level of brain function. So, if you think having self-compassion is selfish, then remember that when you’re more compassionate towards yourself, then you’ll be able to be more compassionate towards others. We are all worthy of self-compassion, and when we treat ourselves with more kindness then our sense of self-worth grows unconditionally.